Archive for February, 2013

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COMMONALITIES between taconite and fracking?

February 24, 2013

Let’s learn from Hibbing.  “Short” term resource and financial gains from taconite led to severe environmental shortfalls….lowering of the water table; draining the aquifer; dried up water sources; and escalating expenses to route water to Hibbing from further away….which is probably upsetting the balance of that aquifer as well- which we will only learn sometime in the future when it is too late.

Now “fracking” is the “new” early 21st century resource and financial gains issue…also impacting water availability in other parts of our state.

It is not a simple “SAY NO” solution of course.

If benefits are proven to outweigh risks, then we must implement process/regulations that monitor and minimize those risks that lead to non-reversible consequences.  To agree to that may be more effective in slowing down or stopping this process than all the discussions on both sides thus far.

If the cost to ensure other non-replaceable natural resources is high; fracking “quick profits” most likely will decrease and perhaps the process will not be deemed quite so lucrative!

We can only hope that if that happened, we could REDIRECT current energies of both those benefitting from and those suffering from fracking towards a win/win for both-most likely with a focus on renewable resources.

Of course I am leery of that happening as short term business gains and short term employment opportunities are the political mantra of the Republicans…but when the money stops flowing, I am fearful they simply move on to the next potential quick pay-back-never taking responsibility for environmental issues; never thinking twice about limited resources pushing to work together for equitable solutions; no, when the money stops flowing into their coffers, they seem to merely move on  leaving the mess for the next in line to fix.

An emerging example is our very own White Bear Lake situation.

It is a fact that it would take annual rainfall FOUR inches above the norm just to maintain lake levels and resident use demands of those that ring the lake.  Green lawns, swimming pools and lush golf courses abound in this affluent community settled on the lakeshore. Unfortunately, they have over-reached-  and now in a time of drought , have more quickly than expected been exposed to a shrinking lake.  Their docks no longer reach the water’s edge.  And to whom do they turn?  They are suing the DNR contending it’s all the government’s fault for not regulating them better.  Go figure.

 

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HUBRIS

February 24, 2013

HUBRIS

Imagine this….a large corporate entity draws a line in the sand:

We are the most experienced; we are the most innovative; we have the best ideas; we have the best product; we have the best track record; we are fiscally responsible; our competitor has no leadership skills. Let’s let our product/service  and the consumer decide.

Two companies go head to head in battle; opps…the competitor wins.

Our entity responds:

We need to change but we are the most experienced; we are the most innovative; we have the best ideas; we have the best product; we have the best track record; we are fiscally responsible; our competitor has no leadership skills….

Reminds me of a long battle Ma Bell fought…with other antique land systems; with mobile phones; with Apple and smart phones…until they were finally left standing among the ruins of their defeat.

Ma Bell or WAIT A MINUTE – was it the Republicans vs the Democrats since 2008/2012 and perhaps 2016? It hardly matters. Whomever it was, it spells hubris and usually ends in a well-deserved defeat.

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THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

February 23, 2013

During the US Presidential campaign, I collected a stack of notes as blog topics-motivated by the active opinion-sharing involvement and attempts to sway US citizens- by various Catholic clergy in the US.  Every time there was another incident, I made another note.  Every time I heard another politician use the “authority” of their Catholic faith as their support for discriminatory comments against women, gays, and other issues totally removed from the realm of politics and governance of the country, I made another note. Over the last six months of the campaign, the stack grew and grew but fortunately for readers, I resisted using religious faith as a central topic…for the most part.

I wasn’t perfect….A few times I spoke up as Republican candidates used their Catholic faith as justification for what I regarded anti-women/anti-gay positions; when the Vatican condemned the US nuns for failing to uphold church doctrine as relates to women and gays; and when a child was denied confirmation in the Catholic Church because of a picture of him holding a Vote No in a same sex marriage debate.  And when the Republicans argued we were a Christian country, I really had to bite my tongue and stop my typing hands from pointing out…not so fast.  But overall, I did better than I thought I would considering how strongly I feel on the topic, and how little the church has changed since the Middle Ages when the breaks with that church and the rise of the Protestants began to impact the Christian faith.

The pile of notes continued to grow concerning the constant interference of the Catholic Church in the business, government and daily lives of US citizens despite the fact that freedom of religion and tolerance for all are key principles guiding the whites who first came to these shores.  The First Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees freedom of religion; and the separation of church and state was clarified by Jefferson in the Treaty of Tripoli.  Yet, 200 years later, we seem to move closer and closer to needing another clarification.

And then, elections over, the world was a-buzz re the Pope’s resignation and we’ve heard a great deal since about successorship.  This morning, I found a comment I wrote that unfortunately the organization is so “in-bred”, it becomes hard to see any significant change ahead…although one can only hope.

 It would be nice to see that since the founders of the church 2000 years ago were not white, and most Catholics in the world today are not whites, that serious consideration is indeed being given to Cardinals from Brazil or Africa that made the “potential” successor lists compiled by the Press.  Not only would such a successor at least then have a chance to relate to his people instead of merely “rule”, but it also would be a signal that the Catholic Church recognizes the world is changing fast and whites are NOT necessarily the all-knowing.  And a long shot, but it might even give the church a means to free itself from the pomposity of Rome itself and be able to provide support to its flock in issues reflective of today’s world.

One does not have to alter core beliefs to be in touch; one only has to admit that the Catholic Church of today is NOT the Church of 2000 years ago; after all Christ and Peter were not whites. Nor is it the Church of 600 years ago when it was permissible for an (unmarried) Pope’s offspring to take their rightful “place” as leader of the church when a pope died – and continue the intrigues, wars, armies and killing conducted by their father.  

Somehow, a myth of infallibility evolved; a myth whose strains I have heard in pundit discussions in recent weeks – including a myth that the Catholic Church is the “longest surviving religion on earth”.  What?!!!  It may be the longest surviving Christian religion, but I expect even Jesus would be surprised to hear that mistruth…after all, he was raised in the Jewish faith….long before he gathered his first disciples.

And in the ensuing discussions about why the Pope resigned – the first in 600 years to do so-there have been several references to how difficult his time in the papacy has been because of the number of sexual scandals involving men of the church.  I have a clipping sitting here describing a church official advocating for women to be accepted into the priesthood…because it is so hard for priests, and church leaders to maintain their vows of chastity.  Note it was not advocating marriage for the men of the Church.…so for me, I read it to mean….if there was easy access to women priests, the men of the church would have a way to keep their sexual activities secret within the Church confines. 

And now this morning….a tiny note tucked away in the STRIB….announced that Pope Benedict has transferred Monsignor Balestrero to Colombia.  This same monsignor had been mentioned in papal documents leaked to the press that reported the pope decided to resign-not for health reasons- but right after receiving a dossier allegedly detailing a network of sex and corruption inside the Vatican itself.  [Note:  Later today, the Vatican refuted this is the reason for the retirement; maintaining it is indeed for health reasons.]

Sunday I watched a special on how King George V of England dragged the monarchy forward into the the 20th century; while his cousins around him who did not reinvent themselves simply disappeared.  I think the next pope, whomever that may be, would do well to follow George’s example.  It is time for reinvention and revision of thinking.

 

 

 

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PRESIDENTS DAY 2013

February 19, 2013

I learned several interesting things today:

AMENDMENT XIII Abolition of Slavery

Section 1.  Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Guess which state JUST THIS MONTH ratified this amendment?  Hard to believe, but yes, Mississippi did not ratify the Amendment initially.  In fact, it was 1995 before they voted to pass it….and then?  Well, somehow the paperwork never got properly filed until Thursday, February 7, 2013!    We know life slows down there in our southern states, but really?

BUSH’S BRAIN

A new book just published substantiates all I have been saying since 2000 about the little Bush-man.  George W. spent his life trying to outdo his father….trying to show he was bigger, tougher than George Sr.  A nice man; but a not very smart man – he fell into the grips of the neocons who manipulated him into believing he could finish the job his father had started but didn’t have the guts to end….yup, the second invasion of Iraq….one way or another.  We all know how that turned out.  For all of those I argued with back in late 2001 and early 2002 – I have been exonerated.   Iraq was NOT a threat; Iraq had nothing to do with 9 -11; Iraq was merely unfinished business for the neocons – using George W. for their pawn.  How sad is that?  Not just for the Bushes, for all of us as a country.  Dick Cheney should be in jail.

On one hand, I cannot wait for this evening’s special…even though it is an MSNBC special on the Rachel Maddow Show…which I normally do not watch.  On the other hand, I dread it; as I fear that horrible stomach ache I had all those months as we ALL knew we would be off to war again…and no one could stop it, as Cheney told his tale of lies and convinced the puppet to go to war.  Think of the lives lost – and please, not just American soldiers…add the Iraqi soldiers and innocent civilians and tell me one more time they deserved it.  No, they did not.  It was a neocon fantasy sold to a man trying to show up his dad-just  like I said it was.  It is not fun to be right in these circumstances.

OUR CHANGING DEMOGRAPHICS IN MINNESOTA

Some of us keep talking about it; some of us see it around us; some of refer to a multicultural future. And today, for the first time, I watched a quick segment on local network news addressing these demographic changes.  Kids in schools today in MN  are more diverse; more households are being built by couples who are not necessarily married; more women and girls are being invited to understand their potential roles in politics and government.  We are making progress.

 

A TRANSFORMATIONAL PRESIDENT

And more on the positive side – a little ray of understanding shined today. Three different news media personnel described President Obama as a transformational President….not only the first African -American President, but a man who is leading and governing for the 21st century; not for times gone by. 

YES!  This is why I voted for him over Hillary in 2008; this is why I voted for him in 2012.  He is a man of HIS TIME – not a man of the olden days of WWII, Vietnam, Reagan or the Bushes.   He tried cooperation; it confused the Republicans who thought it was a trick.  That- combined with the leftover “white man rules mentality “- and the fact he was a Democrat blinded both politicians and the press.  This has led to critique after critique of his performance over and over and over again.

And like fingernails on chalk boards, their favorite cry is “That’s not what Eisenhower would have done!”; “That’s not what Reagan would have done!”  No kidding, Obama has been responding to the world of today – not a world of yesteryear.  Does that mean he gets it right ever time?  Of course not.  I cannot think of a single President of the 20th century that made no mistakes or miscalculations.  Why do we think that an explorer of a new world would have all the answers?  That’s like saying we needed no innovative thinking from 1492 on…after all as one of the first explorers of the unknown; Columbus (and others) discovered the new world.  Why change it?

So with all these revelations, Presidents Day 2013 will be a memorable holiday for me!  Maybe there is still hope.

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CLEANING UP THE POST-IT NOTES

February 10, 2013

It’s Sunday; so time to clean up the desk of all the “thoughts” scattered across my desk.  And for now, that might hold my interest so I don’t work myself into a frenzy just thinking about having to drive out to Plymouth tomorrow afternoon in the storm to see my tax man!

AMERICAN STEW:  I was intrigued by this article in STRIB this morning about a new book by Colin Woodard entitled AMERICAN NATIONS.  Woodard points out that the divisive political times in which we now live have roots WAY before the United States existed…and in fact go back to early settlements in the New World.   He maintains that instead of a United States of America, we represent eleven different backgrounds/philosophies – each very different from the next and pretty much all traced back to from whence we came and how we got here. And for the last 200 years, these nations have been vying for dominance of the federal government…finding power in coalitions with nations whose philosophies are if not similar, at least are tolerable at the time.  These coalitions are more commonly known as political parties.   Check it out – the descriptions of each make sense.

I’d rather be a Yankee combined with the Left Coast and friends of the Midlands and New Netherlands  than the alternative; so guess that explains my Democratic Party leanings.  Interesting as I ruminate on that, I recall that since school days, I have mostly been predisposed against Appalachia, the Deep South (except for Scarlett and Rhett – of course!) and the “Wild West”.   Even as I started to travel, I had no yearning to see those areas, and the time I have spent in them since has not really changed my pre-disposition against them.    So I guess it is nice to know it is not just a political divide – it’s in my genes! 

I may have to order the book to learn more about this…at least on the surface, it has some merit.

SOUTHERN COOKING and HEALTHCARE:  I have never liked “Sweet Tea” and would always choose Roasted Chicken or my mom’s “Cuban Chicken” over Southern-Fried any day (maybe it was just toooo much time in Louisville and that awful Colonel Saunders hotel I had to stay at when visiting Appliance Park J) but  I could only chuckle when I read this week that “southern cooking” increases the odds of a stroke.  Maybe it’s the conversation that accompanies the food…that generally “strokes” me out.

 Seriously, doesn’t that raise the associated issue…..healthcare costs?  See, once again, these Dixiecrats can be blamed for the problem!J  Perhaps Affordable Health Care they so vehemently protest would be MORE affordable if they gave up their bad habits.

FACING REALITIES:   For the last five years, the Republicans of Scott and Carver County had their way and held firm:  No tax increase to offset the cost of modernizing the metro transportation infrastructure.  So our seven country metro area became a five-county region as Scott and Carver “opted out”.

I was encouraged to read that Shakopee is now beginning to recognize they are not immune.  If they want better transit, they will have to pay for it.

Of course, they love living out there in the exurbs but most jobs, retail, entertainment and other cultural events are not located there so they have become the very people causing the traffic problems and super-stress on our aging infrastructure…yet up to now, continue to chant loudly “no additional taxes”.

Sometimes I think they are more than simply selfish…perhaps even bordering on not so smart…or at least thinking that the rest of us are not so smart!

Just how hard is it to assess the cost of this foolish position?  What is their own estimate of assessed value of their time?  What does it cost per year for car(s).  Be sure to include the license, the garage, parking,  gasoline, maintenance, upkeep, insurance, and depreciation.  Just how much does a 3-4 car garage (even without a Romney elevator) add to the price of your house?

Add to those facts, add the statistics on the Express Bus usage from that area.  It is setting records – 17,000 passenger miles in just November – one month!  That tells us the youth in the exurbs may “get it” – or at least do not want to give up jobs and benefits of access the other five metro counties have to our core urban areas.

I think it is time for the Traditionalists, Boomers, Gen-Xers out there to face the reality – your opinions do not mesh with the world anymore.    

Meanwhile, I was glad to read this week that many urban dwellers like me have helped to keep MN cost of transportation congestion per person UNDER the national average.  And for that, I say, KUDOS to Metro Transit not only for MNPass lanes and better traffic monitoring, light rail and the great bus service.  Add to that the NICE Rides in the summer and our own feet, and as a state, we are moving in the right direction – with or without Scott and Carver County.

RADON:   I hope residents of Dakota Country saw the article this morning on radon.  Who knew, “State is a Radon Hotbed’?   Perhaps you, like me, have been unaware of the radon threat that occurs naturally and is the # 2 cause of lung cancer.  Please read the article and if you live in Dakota Country, GET YOUR HOUSE CHECKED!.

THE IMMIGRATION FOCUS:  Were I an immigrant in the 21st century, no matter where I came from, I would run as fast as I could towards the Democrats.  I find it incredulous that even the Republicans advocating for immigration reform do not seem to “get it”.  When presenting their arguments for reform within their own party AND to the Press, they use “winning/regaining power” as the # 1 reason they need to rethink their strategy.  Pretty easy to see it is a self-interest and not an understanding that they, too, once came from immigrants.  Every day, they amaze me…and every day I am amazed by those that hear them and do not question!

However, I guess I have to be honest with myself, though, as I think back as a woman, trying to survive the old white-bread businessman’s world of the 1970s-1990s.  I was fully aware of their feelings and subsequent manipulations, but chose NOT to cry discrimination.  I guess-because I recognized I was smarter than them-I knew that sooner or later I would “win” the battle.  I can only hope that new immigrants listening to these guys are having similar thoughts!

DRONES AND THE CIA:  We all seem comfortable and understand the “traditional” CIA purpose and responsibilities and are comfortable with how they operated…undercover spies collecting intelligence for others to act on, or if all else fails, become the one (as the romanticized heroes of the “spy” novel bestsellers of the later 20th century) to ‘take-out” the enemy through any means possible.

And then, during the Bush Administration, the world changed and we recognized fighting terrorism is not quite like fighting diplomats and armies of another country.  Enter drones and their use….a policy Obama has continued and relied upon –once he received the Justice Department ruling that had not been asked for in the previous administration.

So here we are.  The old “rules” don’t apply; the old “issues” are not relevant.  And we are just not sure about drones…and neither are our enemies.

I listened to the hearings; I have been listening to all the press speculation, questions, discussion, and issues.  And I have not heard anything but “noise” to help me resolve in my own mind what I think.

Perhaps history could provide-if not answers- at least some examples to learn from.  What was the reaction to the first gun? What’s been the world impact?  What about the first fighter airplane, atomic bomb, missile, truck bomb, nuclear weapon, or suicide bomber?

My instinct says we need to sort out the facts from the fiction of the new technology represented by the drone – separate from politics.



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DRONES

February 7, 2013

How many readers (or for that matter, members of Congress) can cite statistics of non-military casualties and deaths incurred in the World Wars, the Korean War, Vietnam -or even the most recent “questionable” war of Iraq?

Think about it.  When we talk of Iraqi casualties, most of us use statistics of soldiers only and often only American soldiers’ lives lost– despite GREAT general population losses.  In fact, even in the Hegel hearing, he was challenged for using “1200” as the figure of losses caused by the Iraqi surge because the angry old birds were using a statistic of some number 800-900.  Why?  They dismissed the civilian deaths as irrelevant-at least in their attempt to denigrate Chuck Hagel.

Of course there are pros and cons of drone use that should be openly discussed as worth and benefits are evaluated.  That marks the normal progression of any new product or process….how is it working?  What problems are we having?  How can they be minimized? What will that cost? Is the benefit worth the cost?  

But that discussion should not be colored by “the way we have always waged war” or more importantly, by anti-Obama “gotchas” from the Republican Party led by angry old men who cannot accept their time has come.  Yes, I do indeed mean those same attitudes we have witnessed recently by the grandstanding seen in Cabinet appointment review meetings.

Legal opinions produced by the legal counsel’s office are interpretations of federal law that are binding on all executive branch agencies and that step was taken.  It can be compared to the Bush Administration ruling on torture and water boarding legal opinion – which was not released for 7 years – until 2009 right after Obama took office.

That was wrong.  The Obama Administration prudently released the summation of the drone decision; it is rightfully being questioned-as it obviously has raised questions from the “press” (who are our self-appointed watchdogs).  I was glad to see that as the issue came to a head for whatever reason this week, it took only from Monday to Wednesday before Obama released the actual ruling – a GREAT improvement over the seven years of wrangling and secrecy over torture issues.  I only hope it triggers a thoughtful discussion and not just the brouhaha of grandstanding  and spin. 

I was also very encouraged to listen to an interview yesterday from the Republican Chair of the over-sight committee in Congress:

First of all, it corrected the MISINFORMATION that the summary document had not been shared, but was being held SECRETLY by the Obama Administration.  Instead, it was indeed shared and discussed with the Congressional Oversight committee; but it was not distributed publically.

Second of all, the Chair resisted all pressure from Andrea Mitchell who was conducting the interview, to turn it into a “gotcha” story.  He reassured her and more importantly, the viewers, that he had the document; he agreed with its intent, but was still asking for details therein; he worked closely with the White House and was aware of every drone strike, its mission and purpose, its outcome and its value and was totally in support of the use of the drones thus far.  He corrected Andrea repeatedly as she questioned things that had been “revealed” in Monday’s article.  Not only did his answers set my mind a bit more at ease about drone use; it was so refreshing to see a senior Republican put country first, not party rhetoric.

 I listened to him and reflected with HOPE, that we would be able to weather this storm, make improvements as needed, and continue to move towards a future where philosophical differences between countries do NOT always have to be resolved by BOOTS on the ground….followed by lots and lots of bodies in graves.

Perhaps this time, we can develop a plan working together that values lives and does all possible to minimize death and casualties.  And with a little patience that plan just MIGHT have the beginnings of solutions to the other tragedies of the Iraqi/Afghan wars.  First, the incredible cost that was NOT dealt with by the Administration that took us into war; second, the wounded that returned home; and the little effort/dollars devoted to making our own soldiers and their families “whole” again.  And third, what in the world do we do with the ”prisoners of war” captured, imprisoned and then abandoned with no plan to deal with them. Not too much foresight shown there but we certainly can see how difficult it is to deal with “after the fact” when no plan was in place at the inception.

Again, I do not pretend to be an expert in drones, their use, or moral consequences.  Fortunately, that is not my job.  But near as I can tell, their use is worth at least an un-emotional, non-political exploration of today’s version of the old REAL WIN WORTH RISK analysis before we all start screaming before cameras, and listening to FOX/MSNBC  as we choose sides based on politics only.

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NEW THINKING ON BENGHAZI

February 5, 2013

The top LIBYAN official investigating Benghazi has now given his view (STRIB p.A4):  “The attackers…represented a variety of Islamist groups and were motivated by many factors”.  Ashour believes the attack was hastily planned by smaller groups whose membership comprised different nationalities.

He continued on to say that the attack was not well organized, but with no Lybian forces in East Libya, it did not need to be.  “Islamist groups have their own agendas and they have the ability to gather and mobilize.  They exploit the lack of security.”

(Editorial Comment:  Hmmmm – this sounds very familiar.  Rather than an Obama Administration cover-up in the early hours, could it be possible they were reflecting the short-term consensus of the Libyans as to what was happening?)

Although General Carter, head of US Africa Command confirms individuals involved had a connection to AQIM (Al-Qaida in Islamic Maghreb) he would not go so far as to say it was AQIM-directed or even AQIM-inspired or –supported effort.  But, for me, the most important thing in the General’s comments was “what I am wrestling with is: What is the connection with all these various individuals or groups?”

And to that I say, WELL DONE, GENERAL!  This is meaningful analysis and good thinking!

I am not denying that perhaps we should expect that if the governments of countries in which we have embassies do not have the ability to provide security, we need to alter diplomatic procedures to ensure we provide that security ourselves or coach and financially support the efforts of the host company so they can comply with what we need.  Therein lays the rub of course.  The Republican grand-standing at the time to show that they as the FISCAL conservatives had already hindered those efforts.  They would not approve dollars to increase security at embassies considered in jeopardy so, to defuse any blame away from them, they had to attack Clinton, and thereby try to discredit the entire Obama Administration. 

What I AM saying is that the Angry Old Birds simply used this as a political move – once again putting “winning” over the good of the country – just like McCain’s recent quotes suggest why he is supporting  the immigration discussions- we have to change so we can WIN.  No, my friends, you need to change so the American people will have the faith in you that you have the skills to govern without it being another chance for you to act out your love of war and send thousands of soldiers and innocent citizens to their death.

Unfortunately as I watched the Inquisition thus far, all it did was convince me that this old group of Repos does not want to act diplomatically and work towards meaningful resolutions that make us stronger; they prefer the war-mongering.  Or at a minimum, they believe they will be honored for war-mongering. If they cannot be civil to US citizens, however could we expect them to be civil to countries around the world – all of which they either fear or think are inferior to the United States. And that leads me conclude that even today, we would have a greater chance of being at war and losing lives with a Republican at the helm than we would be with a Democrat.

But I digress from the basic issues.   More hearings are on the docket on Thursday….this time it will be Secretary of Defense Leo Panetta and General Dempsey, chairman of the Chiefs of Staff.  It’s the Republicans last chance.  Will they bluster or rise to the occasion so that together, as a country, we can learn from this and get on with listening to each other, supporting each other and collaborating to solve the real concern:  “What is the connection with all these various individuals or groups”? 

Therein, lays the answer that could lead to a safer world for us all.